How do you know when your gut isn’t healthy or performing optimally, and what can you do about it?
Your symptoms could range from bloating, heartburn, gas, and skin conditions to brain fog, food sensitivities and insomnia. If you believe you have digestive issues, it’s best to see a doctor. A first sign can be the form and frequency of stools – this varies for everyone due to transit time, ideally at least once a day to up to 3 times a day – outside that is considered either constipation or loose stool, and that signals you may have digestive issues.
So how can you maintain your gut health?
Diet is undoubtedly the most powerful influence on your gut microbiome. However, different foods affect different people differently. There are multiple variables: the foods; the individual; the microbial population. For example, eating broccoli might cause one type of bacteria to multiply in one person, while having no effect in another. That’s why I always remind my patients that even if you’re presenting exactly the same way as someone else, the causes, and therefore the treatment, may be completely different.
The Western diet, which is heavy in meat and processed foods, is associated with dysbiosis, a disruption in the gut bacteria. It’s best to eat a large, seasonal variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and reduce factory farm-raised antibiotic and hormone-fed meat intake. Buy your produce as close to the source as possible. Fruit and vegetables carry bacteria that help us digest our food, and we lose this when we buy chemical-sprayed produce. Soluble fibre is key to a healthy microbiome because this is what your gut bacteria eat. Feeding it soluble fibre results in nourishing by-products.
Another way to aid good gut health is to experiment and incorporate fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, yoghurt and tempeh. Fortunately, these foods are quite popular now, so it’s relatively easy to find them in stores, or even to find easy recipes and make your own at home. Sourdough bread and dark chocolate are also good.
Take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary, since they kill the good bacteria with the bad. Avoid allergens, toxins, too much caffeine, and alcohol. Add in meditation and stress-reduction techniques to calm both your mind and your gut.
And practice mindful eating. Eating is actually a separate behaviour, when compared to something like watching TV or scrolling on your phone. For proper digestion to occur, you need to start appreciating eating as a separate activity. Believe me, you will see the benefits.
You can also supplement your diet with an effective prebiotic and probiotic supplement, which will promote healthy digestive system function and enhance healthy digestive system flora and good bacteria growth. There is even research available now which shows the benefits of postbiotics as well.
Take the time to focus on your gut health, it will be worth it!